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Got writer’s block? Here are some essay questions that might be a bit easier to answer.
1. What would you rather be doing right now? Be honest.
If I wasn’t writing right now, I’d probably be volunteering at one of the many, uh, places I volunteer at… Or… I’d be, you know… at an extracurricular event. Wait. Did you mean, what would I be doing if I didn’t have to spend months agonizing over how to get a bunch of people I don’t know to “like” and “respect” me (dare I say, understand me) enough to let me stay in an overpriced dorm at their institution?
I guess if I wasn’t writing this, going through the long and arduous process of applying for college, I would probably be out enjoying myself. Finding myself. Not that applying for college isn’t a way to do those things… It’s just a much more stressful one.
At this time in my life, finding myself is honestly a pretty big deal. Think about it. For 12 years I’ve had to play the sports, participate in the extracurriculars, and learn the subjects that were offered to me. But now, in just two short years, I’ll have to have exponentially more figured out.
In my second year of college, I’m expected to declare a major. I can only assume this means that college somehow prepares me to learn enough about myself that I can wisely choose a major field of study. Otherwise, it seems like a pretty counterintuitive endeavor. Fingers crossed.
But that’s the idea, right? I may not know what I would rather be doing right now, but soon, very soon, I’ll have the life experience and finding-myself-ness to come up with a whole list of things I would rather be doing. And hopefully that comes with the wherewithal to pursue the items on that list.
But I’m supposed to have interests now, right? I mean, interests that I can use to show you that I’m interesting, allowing you to allow me to pursue my developing interests and your institution. Granted, I haven’t had much time to explore myself out of the K12 structure, and I hope you’ll take that into consideration.
So. What would I rather be doing? Well, finding myself doesn’t sound so bad. Watching episodes of a TV show that I’ve seen a million times and then maybe venturing into the unknown territory of a new series. Treating myself to a spa day or a walk in nature. Imagining a future where I have all this out of the way.
Because of course I have interests. Of course I have passions. It’s just hard to articulate that in so few words and statistics, you know? Even if you directly asked me, like you just did, what I would rather be doing, where my heart truly lies, I’d have a hard time coming up with an answer.
Maybe what I’d rather be doing is creating a world where people can answer these questions honestly without jeopardizing their futures or risking failure. Or maybe I’d just rather be making mac and cheese.
2. On a scale from one to ten, how much do you wonder whether this will be worth it?
That’s a difficult thing to quantify, probably because I feel like I, and my life, am such a difficult thing to quantify. Or am I being qualified? (Like “quantified,” but more abstract. Probably not an accepted use of the word.)
Sometimes I feel like a 5. You know, 50/50. I’m pretty confident it will work out one way or another, but then I’m pretty nervous about that “or another” part. I don’t like to admit it, but I have a vision for how I want all this to go down. It’s not going to kill me to go to my seventeenth-choice college, but it’s not going to feel great, either.
Other times I feel like a 7. I have these mini-freakouts where I’m like, “Do I even want to go to college? There are tons of bums out there. Some famous person never went to college and he was like a genius or something. Didn’t Thomas Edison have, like, a third grade education?
“Although I think I learned that in fourth grade, so if I had the education of Thomas Edison I wouldn’t even know that! Seriously though, it’s not like the Common App account is binding. I can just never log in again and they won’t track me down. I’m just a number.”
“And even if they do find me, I’ll go off the grid.”
Wow. If that’s what I attribute to my “seven” response, what do I do at a 10?
But then, you know, sometimes I feel like a 3. I know that this process seems like a lot more struggle and trouble than it’s worth, but that’s all right with me. It’s something that, at least at this point in our society, is necessary and I’m okay with that because soon I’ll be on my way to being my own person.
And then I can wonder about the value of my whole life, not a mere admissions process.
3. Describe the moment you realized that this was going to be one of the most stressful processes of your young life.
What a great moment it was. I remember being innocent. So sweet, so untarnished, so naive. You know, if I remember correctly, I think I was even excited to fill out my application, to list my accomplishments and activities. And boy, was I excited to talk about myself.
But this isn’t small talk at a party.
Well, it is and it isn’t. It is like small talk because you aren’t really getting to know me, and this is just a formality, a social process we go through because there is no better option that allows us to achieve our end goal. At a party, it’s making acquaintances. For us, it’s finding good students and good colleges, respectively.
This is not small talk, though, because the people you meet at parties don’t hold your fate in their hands. (That you know of.) At parties, you aren’t required to express your whole life in 650 words.
I realized that this was going to be one of the most stressful processes of my young life after staring blankly at an empty document in front of me until I forgot my own name. I thought this was going to be easy. I swear I thought of like half a dozen golden phrases in the shower. Where did it all go?
Has all my genius evaporated in the face of the gravity of the situation? Does the very fact that I have a bright future ahead of me make me less equipped for said future, thereby dimming it? Am I spiraling down a viciously cycling stairwell of self-doubt that is as extensive as my up-until-moments-ago-seemingly-wonderful array of options?
Probably not. But when I first sat down to make all of this concrete, to make myself concrete and put myself out into the world for what might have been the first time, I realized that like most people, I’m not that great at small talk.
4. In what ways can you assure yourself that this will all turn out okay? Give concrete examples.
I can buy myself a coffee because I deserve it, and know that I will probably always have either the money to buy a dollar cup of coffee, or friends and family who care enough to lend me that and more. That’s something I can’t take for granted.
I can look at all the opportunities out there, the thousands of colleges and universities and careers that are available to me, and realize that no matter what happens, I’ll forge a new path for myself, starting now. And that’s exciting.
I can talk to my friends and my family, because they’re going through or have gone through the same thing, and know that they’ll be here for me no matter what.
And most importantly, I’m here for myself. I made it this far. I put together an impressive application and I’m following through on it and I should be proud of that. I’ll find my place in the world. (Cue Taylor Swift throwback.)
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